A grand jury has been empaneled and taken sworn testimony regarding Jane Sanders’ controversial land deal that led to her being ousted as the president of Burlington College.
The VT Digger reports that former Burlington College board member Robin Lloyd says she testified for about an hour on Oct. 26 before a grand jury at the federal courthouse in Burlington.
Federal authorities have been investigating the $10 million sale of about 33 acres of property by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to Burlington College to relocate.
Lloyd was reportedly questioned by Paul Van de Graaf, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney’s office in Vermont, about her role as the development chair of the college’s board of trustees as Sanders was collecting donations and pledges to purchase the lavish property.
“They said this is not about you,” Lloyd told the VT Digger. “I wasn’t offered immunity, but I was also assured that I didn’t need to feel I had something to worry about.”
The outlet reported that there are at least five other people Federal Bureau of Investigation or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have interviewed, but they did not respond to requests for comment.
To obtain a loan for the deal, the college, under Sanders’ leadership, claimed that they would be receiving $2.6 million in donations as well as increased enrollment. David V. Dunn, a Burlington College trustee at the time, has publicly stated that this was not true.
“The loan was granted and the purchase was then made based on Ms. Sanders’s assurance that the college would receive millions of dollars in pledged donations that it would use to repay the loan,” the New York Times reported in July.
When the donations never materialized, Sanders was forced to resign.
“I don’t believe that there was fraud in terms of willful intent,” Dunn told the Times. “I believe that there was information that was misrepresented.”
According to Brady Toensing, the lawyer who filed a complaint about the issue with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont in January 2016 on behalf of various Catholic parishioners, wrote in a letter to the federal prosecutor’s office that “this apparent fraud resulted in as much as $2 million in losses to the Diocese and an unknown amount of loss to People’s United Bank, a federally financed financial institution.”
“Ms. Sanders and her husband have built political careers pontificating against corporate corruption and claiming to want to help the needy,” the letter continued. According to the Times, it went on to state that the mission of the diocese was to serve the needy and the financial loss as a result of the failed real estate deal would “materially detract from this charitable work.”
Jane and Bernie Sanders have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the deal.
According to a report from Politico in May, the ongoing controversy surrounding the investigation is weighing on Senator Sanders “clouding his outlook” when it comes to discussing another run for president in 2020.